With no-trust on agenda, NA begins crucial session today

Published March 28, 2022
This image shows lawmakers during the National Assembly session on March 25. — Photo courtesy: NA Twitter
This image shows lawmakers during the National Assembly session on March 25. — Photo courtesy: NA Twitter

ISLAMABAD: All eyes are now on the National Assembly as it is set to meet here on Monday (today) after a two-day recess, with an opposition-moved no-confidence resolution against Prime Minister Imran Khan and a government-sponsored constitution amendment bill seeking the creation of the south Punjab province on its agenda.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told a news conference on Sunday said the voting on the no-trust motion would take place on April 4 if National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser allowed its tabling on Monday, hinting that the government could further delay the process.

Under the rules, from the day the resolution is moved, it “shall not be voted upon before the expiry of three days, or later than seven days”. The minister’s remarks show that the government will take maximum time for putting the resolution to vote, whenever the speaker allows its tabling.

On the other hand, the opposition parties have planned to hold a strong protest inside and outside the National Assembly if the speaker further delayed presenting the no-confidence motion.

Minister hints at further delay, says voting to take place on April 4 if speaker allows tabling of motion

After the decision of Shahzain Bugti of the Jamhoori Watan Party to quit the ruling coalition, the number of treasury members has now reduced to 178 in the 342-member lower house of the parliament, whereas the opposition now enjoys the support of 163 MNAs.

The PML-Q, the Balochistan Awami Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — the three major government allies having 17 MNAs — have yet to decide which side they are on. These parties are still negotiating with both the government and opposition parties.

Read: Why is the PM in election mode?

Besides, over a dozen PTI dissident MNAs have already come into the open with their criticism on the government policies, indicating that they might support the opposition’s no-trust motion even at the cost of being disqualified as National Assembly members.

The speaker — who had called the opposition-requisitioned session on Friday, three days after the expiry of the constitutionally mandatory 14-day deadline — adjourned the sitting until Monday. He did not allow the opposition’s no-trust resolution to be tabled after offering fateha for the deceased PTI MNA from Hangu Khayal Zaman as per the parliamentary tradition.

The speaker adjourned the sitting within minutes and ignored Opposition Leader Shehbaz Sharif who wanted to seek the floor to deliver a speech. Later, the opposition lashed out at the speaker for not giving floor to Mr Sharif, stating that it was also a parliamentary tradition that the opposition leader was always given the floor whenever he stood up to speak.

Venting their anger at the speaker after the session, the opposition leaders alleged that the speaker was running the parliament “like a member of the ruling PTI and not the custodian of the house”.

South Punjab bill

After the opposition members addressed the news conference outside Parliament House, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also talked to the media and disclosed that he had submitted a constitution amendment bill to the National Assembly secretariat, seeking the creation of the south Punjab province.

It was at Mr Qureshi’s request that the speaker had immediately issued orders to put the bill on Monday’s agenda.

The move has come at a time when the PTI is struggling to win back support of its allies and dissidents within the party, many of whom happen to be from south Punjab.

Under the draft bill, the south Punjab province would have 56 seats in the National Assembly, including 46 general seats, and 119 in its provincial assembly. Creating south Punjab as the country’s fifth province was one of PTI’s election manifestos.

“Today, we have fulfilled another promise made to the people of south Punjab,” Mr Qureshi told reporters, adding that he had moved the bill on the prime minister’s directive. He urged opposition parties, including the PPP and PML-N, to support the constitution amendment bill.

A bill seeking the creation of south Punjab province introduced by PML-N’s Rana Mehmoodul Hasan and was supported by both PTI and PPP has already been pending before the Senate since January.

On Sunday, the National Assembly secretariat issued a 26-point agenda for the Monday’s sitting, which included the presentation of two ordinances, besides resolutions seeking extension in the constitutional life of three other ordinances. Interestingly, two of the ordinances have already expired.

The opposition submitted the requisition notice on March 8 under Article 54 of the Constitution and the no-confidence resolution against the prime minister under Article 95.

According to Article 54, once a National Assembly session has been requisitioned with signatures of at least 25 per cent of its members, the speaker has a maximum of 14 days to summon a session.

However, the speaker, who had to call the lower house in session by March 22, convened it on March 25.

In his order, he stated that a motion had been adopted by the National Assembly on Jan 21 to allow the exclusive use of its chamber for the 48th session of the Organisation of Islamic Countries’ Council of Foreign Ministers on March 22 and 23.

He said the Capital Development Authority chairman and Islamabad’s deputy commissioner were also approached for the provision of a suitable place outside the parliament building, but “they have informed in writing that no suitable place is available at present in Islamabad”.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2022

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